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Last modified: Monday, March 24, 2008

Eileen T. Bender

W. George Pinnell Awards for Outstanding Service

Professor of English
Department of English
University Graduate School
Indiana University South Bend
Appointed to IU faculty, 1987
B.S., Northwestern University, 1956
Ph.D., University of Notre Dame, 1977

"With wit and grace and skill, she has served on committees that have tackled many of our university's and community's most pressing problems, and she is aware of and already working on future challenges."

--Linda Marie Fritschner, Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Indiana University South Bend

When Professor of English Eileen Bender is working on a project at Indiana University South Bend, administrators, faculty members, and students can rest assured it is done thoroughly and with excellence. "She has helped transform the campus through her leadership and expertise in academic planning, policy making, and assessment activities," says IU South Bend Chancellor Una Mae Reck. Bender has committed nearly 30 years to improving IU South Bend and has collaborated with administrators and faculty to prepare the campus for continued excellence.

"Eileen has unconditional love for Indiana University South Bend," says Alfred Guillaume Jr., vice chancellor of academic affairs. With her leadership, the Campus Directions Committee produced two strategic plans under three IU South Bend chancellors. She led the campus through a five-year process to set and clarify the campus's mission and goals.

Bender's dedication as a teacher and university leader has not gone unnoticed. She was awarded IU South Bend's highest honor, the Lundquist Award, for combining community service with teaching. In 2005 she received the P. A. Mack Award for Distinguished Service to Teaching; in 1999 she was named Carnegie Foundation Professor of the Year; and in 1994 she received the Sylvia E. Bowman Distinguished Teaching Award. Also in 1994 she was awarded the IU President's Thomas Hart Benton Medal. She is active in a number of national organizations in the field of American literature and has been involved in the development of nationwide programs that are designed to foster the assessment of academic achievement in higher education. Her research and scholarship focus on contemporary American literature and women's studies.

Chancellor Reck says that Bender "has left a legacy at IU South Bend that few professors could accomplish. Not only has she played an important role in the strategic direction of the campus, she is a wonderful teacher and a mentor to her colleagues."

Under the leadership of Bender and IU Bloomington's Anya Peterson Royce, the Faculty Colloquium on Excellence in Teaching (FACET) program was founded in 1989 as an all-university initiative supported by then-president Thomas Ehrlich to advance teaching excellence across IU. Bender held a joint appointment on both the Bloomington and South Bend campuses at the time. As FACET's first director, she brought the program to IU South Bend, which welcomed and housed the all-university program headquarters until Bender turned the program over to her successors at IUPUI in 2001. IU South Bend thus played a major role in sustaining FACET during its first decade, Bender notes, and she credits her campus colleagues with providing the model for this collegial "academy" promoting teaching excellence.

Bender's devotion to IU South Bend and constant work to improve it also inspire her colleagues. "Her energy and stamina amaze me and have encouraged me to forge ahead when I might otherwise have bowed to defeat," says Rebecca Torstrick, associate professor of anthropology at IU South Bend. With Torstrick, she co-chaired the Higher Learning Commission Self-Study for IU South Bend, a three-year project that required a review and assessment of almost all university operations. Bender and Torstrick organized committees that represented all segments of the campus.

Over the course of her career, she has brought innovative ideas to the South Bend campus, forming the first campus assessment committee and founding the IU South Bend undergraduate research committee. Bender also served as faculty advisor and regional campus support staff member to former IU President Thomas Ehrlich.

"Beyond her impressive skills," says Linda Marie Fritschner, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs, "she is principled, well-grounded, compassionate, and a thoroughly delightful human being, with a commitment to both lead and serve others." Lynn Williams, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, says that it is difficult for him to imagine what the South Bend campus would look like without Bender's influence, but he is sure that it would not be the same quality institution that it is today.